Gulliver of Mars
by Edwin Arnold

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GULLIVER OF MARS

by Edwin L. Arnold


Original Title: Lieut. Gulliver Jones





CHAPTER I


Dare I say it? Dare I say that I, a plain, prosaic
lieutenant in the republican service have done the incredible
things here set out for the love of a woman--for a chimera
in female shape; for a pale, vapid ghost of woman-loveliness?
At times I tell myself I dare not: that you will laugh, and
cast me aside as a fabricator; and then again I pick up
my pen and collect the scattered pages, for I MUST write
it--the pallid splendour of that thing I loved, and won, and
lost is ever before me, and will not be forgotten. The tumult
of the struggle into which that vision led me still
throbs in my mind, the soft, lisping voices of the planet
I ransacked for its sake and the roar of the destruction
which followed me back from the quest drowns all other
sounds in my ears! I must and will write--it relieves me;
read and believe as you list.

At the moment this story commences I was thinking of grill-
ed steak and tomatoes--steak crisp and brown on both sides,
and tomatoes red as a setting sun!

Much else though I have forgotten, THAT fact remains
as clear as the last sight of a well-remembered shore in the
mind of some wave-tossed traveller. And the occasion which
produced that prosaic thought was a night well calculated
to make one think of supper and fireside, though the one
might be frugal and the other lonely, and as I, Gulliver
Jones, the poor foresaid Navy lieutenant, with the honoured
stars of our Republic on my collar, and an undeserved
snub from those in authority rankling in my heart, picked
my way homeward by a short cut through the dismalness
of a New York slum I longed for steak and stout, slippers
and a pipe, with all the pathetic keenness of a troubled
soul.

It was a wild, black kind of night, and the weirdness of
it showed up as I passed from light to light or crossed the
mouths of dim alleys leading Heaven knows to what infernal
dens of mystery and crime even in this latter-day city of ours.
The moon was up as far as the church steeples; large
vapoury clouds scudding across the sky between us and her,
and a strong, gusty wind, laden with big raindrops snarled
angrily round corners and sighed in the parapets like strange
voices talking about things not of human interest.

It made no difference to me, of course. New York in
this year of grace is not the place for the supernatural
be the time never so fit for witch-riding and the night wind
in the chimney-stacks sound never so much like the last
gurgling cries of throttled men. No! the world was very
matter-of-fact, and particularly so to me, a poor younger
son with five dollars in my purse by way of fortune, a packet
of unpaid bills in my breastpocket, and round my neck a
locket with a portrait therein of that dear buxom, freckled,
stub-nosed girl away in a little southern seaport town
whom I thought I loved with a magnificent affection. Gods!
I had not even touched the fringe of that affliction.

Thus sauntering along moodily, my chin on my chest and
much too absorbed in reflection to have any nice apprecia-
tion of what was happening about me, I was crossing in
front of a dilapidated block of houses, dating back nearly
to the time of the Pilgrim Fathers, when I had a vague
consciousness of something dark suddenly sweeping by me--
a thing like a huge bat, or a solid shadow, if such a thing
could be, and the next instant there was a thud and a
bump, a bump again, a half-stifled cry, and then a hurried
vision of some black carpeting that flapped and shook as
though all the winds of Eblis were in its folds, and then
apparently disgorged from its inmost recesses a little man.